Fietsberaad publication 16: bicycle path or parallel road
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Summary and conclusions This publication is an initiative by Fietsberaad to assist road authorities in making a decision in favour of a bicycle path or a parallel road at district connector roads outside built-up areas. The factors that may be used in the consideration are elucidated and advantages and disadvantages of the various possible solutions are discussed by means of real-life examples.
Background Chapter 2 lists the backgrounds. Subjects of discussion are Duurzaam Veilig, the Handboek Wegontwerp, developments in agricultural traffic, the mix of road users and the results of existing traffic safety studies in this field. The major conclusions are:
- both possible solutions (parallel road as well as bicycle path) contravene the principle of homogeneity as formulated in Duurzaam Veilig. If a decision is made in favour of parallel roads large differences in mass, speed and direction will occur on the parallel road. With a decision in favour of separate bicycle paths these differences will continue to exist on the main road;
- according to the CROW recommendations a parallel road is always necessary in case properties are connected to the road. With large numbers of agricultural traffic and cyclists the parallel road may in addition be provided with bicycle paths;
- both cyclists and motorists have an aversion to mixing on a parallel road;
- traffic safety studies demonstrate that a solution with parallel roads is generally speaking safer. In situations with bicycle paths it is particularly car traffic from and to the properties/side-roads that causes problems on the main road and bicycle path. The studies do however not distinguish between various circumstances, such as numbers of cars and bicycles, agricultural traffic and the number of side-roads and/or properties. The dangers caused by agricultural traffic on district connector roads is only limited.
Chapter 3 contains a framework for consideration that provides more possibilities for tailor-made solutions than the current CROW recommendations. The first step in this framework for consideration leads to a possible solution on the basis of car volume and density of (property) connections, to wit a) downgrade to neighbourhood connector, b) district connector with bicycle and moped path or c) district connector with parallel road. Each possible solution does have its drawbacks, however. Upon closer elaboration measures may be taken to minimise these drawbacks as much as possible.
The framework for consideration proves to match actual practice nicely. Ten out of twelve examples collected for this publication seamlessly fit within the framework.
Chapters 4 through 6 illustrate the various possible solutions and discuss real-life examples as well.
Area A: downgrade to neighbourhood connector
If numbers of cars are low but there are (many) property connections and side-roads, downgrading to neighbourhood connector is preferred. A distinction is to be made between type I (with separate bicycle path) and type II (cyclists on the road itself). In chapter 4 this solution is discussed. The advantages of downgrading are among others fewer safety risks thanks to reduced speeds and a higher level of awareness, reduction of barrier formation, relatively low costs and limited effects on the landscape. In addition extra comfort may be provided to cyclists by the construction of a separate bicycle path. The disadvantages of downgrading are largely intrinsic to the solution chosen. A neighbourhood connector is only safe when sufficient measures are taken to increase the awareness level and reduce speed and volume of motor vehicles. In addition it decreases the flow of cars and public transport. A number of conflicts on the bicycle path remain in type I neighbourhood connectors, but these are less serious than in case of a bicycle/moped path along a district connector, as mopeds are not allowed to use the bicycle path.
Area B district connector with separate bicycle/moped paths : At average to high car volumes and relatively few or no property connections a district connector with separate bicycle/moped paths is preferred. Agricultural traffic uses the main road. In chapter 5 this solution is discussed. Advantages are the comfort and safety of cyclists, large support among traffic participants, relatively low costs and limited space required. The major drawbacks of this solution are:
- agricultural traffic on the main road will cause dangerous overtaking manoeuvres and decreased flow. Construction of overtaking areas may largely compensate for this drawback;
- cars from and to the property connections cause (serious) conflicts on the main road and the bicycle path. The chances of such conflicts may be decreased by a range of measures, such as platforms on the bicycle path, increasing the distance between the main road and the bicycle/moped path, a central reserve and so on;
- conflicts among mopeds and cyclists on the bicycle path. Widening the path or construction of one-way bicycle paths may reduce this drawback.
- conflicts between motorised local traffic and cyclists and mopeds on the parallel road. All opportunities to reduce the speed and volume of car traffic are to be used, for instance extra connections to the main road, dead-ending, speed bumps and platforms on the parallel road;
- conflicts between agricultural traffic and cyclists and mopeds on the parallel road. The impressive height and width of these vehicles do not only cause objective safety risks, but particularly subjective feelings of danger. Additional problem are damaged roadsides. Measures include reducing the volume of agricultural traffic, wide surfacing of the roads or adding a separate bicycle path (if necessary in combination with an unpaved parallel road);
- due to the construction of parallel roads the district connector roads often provide an increased barrier. This drawback may be mitigated by extra connections to the main road and extra crossing opportunities (at a different level) for slow traffic.
- resistance among various groups of traffic participants. This is a difficult issue. A transparent process of consideration, where feelings of danger are taken seriously, may contribute to a decrease in resistance.
- and finally: the construction of parallel roads often is costly, requires a great amount of space and has serious consequences for the landscape. These drawbacks are intrinsic to the choice and should be considered in the (political) decision-making process.
Example downgrading: N221 Soest Amersfoort
Example area B: overtaking lanes in Limburg
Example area B: overtaking lanes in Gelderland
Example area B: N240 between Slootdorp and Wieringerwerf
Examples area B: KEM at N346 and N734
Examples area B: N356 between Dokkum and Damwoude
Example area C: N357 Leeuwarden Stiens
Example area C: N24 at Schagen
Example area C: N358 between Lutkepost and Augustinusga